Death Rock City
Priska C. Juschka
Dannielle Tegeder’s art has very long titles. Fantastic indices referencing made-up lands, they are awkward and cumbersome fragments that refute punctuation, capitalization, and grammatical order. As an example, a title from one of her most recent mixed-media drawings:
"BaskraPataci (India – Iran): Tri-Level Schematic with Long Escape Routes; Safety Chrysalis into Yellow Lower Level Station, and Upper Level Tower with Tri-station Containing Hollow Safety Igloo and Winter Line Trees, Upper Mandala and Triangle Forest with Oval Garden, Electric and Water Tower with Nuclear Route Ellipse; Schematic and Yellow Excavation Safety Areas; and Miniature Oz City and Grio Planet with Secret Square Gardens and Circle Floating Shelters" (2004).
In this paragraphical nomenclature, independent nations align to form new lands that are prepared to defend against the forces of evil rampant in our post-cold war, terrorized world. Tegeder mixes and matches her references, employing protective shelters and stages from the natural world (igloos and chrysalides), the fiction world (Oz and the Secret Garden), and the world of religious iconography (mandala), before returning back again to the real world of escape routes, towers, and stations. The result is a dizzying mental image of layered chaos and complex structure—paradoxically, not what is found in her precisely rendered works.
Using a lexicon of geometric forms, Tegeder weaves together lozenges, circles, squares, hash marks, triangles, and lines into diagrammatic compositions. All the drawings in Death Rock City are systematic abstractions that evoke a language of architectural drafting, technological plans, or schematic plan (as in the London tube map). She employs a palette that ranges from black, through gray, to white, as well as ochre, pale brown, and a variety of yellow, and there is little obvious difference between the works beyond their color, a uniformity that does the disservice of making the works feel decorative. Similarly, the scale of the pieces, which is determined by the number of sheets of Fabriano Murillo paper she has used (either one or four), amplifies this sense of patterned repetition, for the character of the compositions does not change with scale; it merely grows. While in some work repetition is essential—as in Warhol’s grids or Gordon Matta-Clark’s wallpaper projects—Tegeder’s urban landscapes cry out for moments of explosive tension. Charles Sheeler and Bernd and Hilla Becher also come to mind, but the power of their industrial landscapes derives from the intense energy channeling through, in steam pipes and electricity lines. That it is contained and controlled by an industrial armature, and then silently rendered, is simultaneously beautiful and terrifying. In Tegeder’s work, the potential for a kind of terrific science-fiction landscape exists but does not come fully into itself.
However, moments of extraordinary potential abound, as do lovely microcosmic environments. For instance, there are places where Tegeder loosens her grip and watery gouache appears to billow like uncontained smoke; or places where a channel or tunnel made of minute concentric circles feels like tiny Albers color studies put to work. In addition, Tegeder’s first foray into translating her cities into three dimensions is successful. Perched atop mirror-topped boxes of varying heights, she re-creates her two-dimensional language using a litany of found objects—beads, pigment, plastic tubing, sequins, wooden blocks, even sea glass, a choice I especially like for the contrast offered by the imperfections of each piece. Particularly strong is her decision to link the sculpture into the physical space of the gallery through a long beaded thread that disappears into a silver heating vent. The exposed electrical innards and the concrete gallery floor, itself striated through years of industrial use, become connected to the landscape of her built environment. This draws out the ignored spaces of the room and moves the sculpture stylistically away from what I suspect is an unintentional linkage to the work of the similarly architectonic and mirrored environments of David Altmejd and closer to the extraordinary fantasy-scapes of Sarah Sze.